The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association (MHA), other members of the Massachusetts Telemedicine Coalition (tMED), along with caregivers and advocates, on Tuesday, October 1 will urge the Joint Committee on Financial Services to support HB991/ SB612, An Act Expanding Access to Telemedicine Services. During the previous legislative session, both the Massachusetts House and Senate were on the record in support of provisions to advance and expand telemedicine services. Governor Charlie Baker also announced his support for improving access to telemedicine services in his inaugural address in January. The tMED coalition, convened by MHA, is now looking to build upon this support.
“Expanding access, strengthening the essential link between clinicians and their patients, and reducing costs – these are all elements of the well-crafted bill before the committee,” said MHA’s President & CEO Steve Walsh. “The time is right to move telemedicine forward in Massachusetts and, in doing so, improve the patient experience for the commonwealth’s residents.”
Telemedicine is a tool that healthcare providers, payers, patients, and employers use to improve access to care for patients, improve health outcomes for chronic illnesses, and reduce costs associated with seeking in-person medical visits. Telemedicine allows all patients – regardless of whether they live in rural or urban areas – convenient access to all levels of healthcare services.
By streamlining provider evaluations of patients suffering from chronic (and expensive) diseases such as asthma, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, and hypertension, telemedicine has been shown to improve outcomes. Telemedicine also has been shown to help reduce hospital readmissions, lengths of stay, and emergency room visits.
HB991/ SB612 establishes comprehensive, common sense policies for telemedicine in Massachusetts. It creates an inclusive definition of telemedicine that covers both interactive and “store-and-forward” technologies, and ensures that services delivered via telemedicine will be covered by the patient’s insurer in the same manner as in-person visits. It also reduces red tape, making it easier for healthcare providers who use telemedicine to review the necessary credentials to treat patients using a telemedicine format. MHA and the rest of the tMED Coalition are calling on legislators to allow Massachusetts to join 40 other states – including all New England states – in passing legislation that ensures access to high-quality telemedicine.
The organizations endorsing HB991/SB612 and who comprise tMED include: MHA, the Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals, the Massachusetts Council of Community Hospitals, Atrius Health, AARP Massachusetts, the MAVEN (Medical Alumni Volunteer Expert Network) Project, the Massachusetts Psychiatric Society, Health Care For All, the ACT!! (Affordable Care Today!!) Coalition, the American Heart Association/ he American Stroke Association, the Massachusetts League of Community of Community Health Centers, the Association for Behavioral Healthcare, the Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems, the Case Management Society of New England, the Seven Hills Foundation, the National Association of Social Workers – Massachusetts Chapter, Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, AMD Global Telemedicine, the Hospice & Palliative Care Federation of Massachusetts, the Organization of Nurse Leaders, the Massachusetts Academy of Family Physicians, the Massachusetts Association of Occupational Therapists, Perspectives Health Services, Phillips, the Massachusetts Family Planning Association, 3Derm, Zipnosis, Bayada Pediatrics, BL Healthcare, Health Point Plus Foundation, Connect2Health, and Massachusetts CFID /ME & FM Association.